Confidence, creativity and perhaps a touch of cuteness can help kids learn valuable lessons in how to run a business.
Thirteen-year olds Meg Richards and Tara Naidu are learning valuable lessons on the job about what it takes to run a small business. The pair have recently become business partners and launched the website for Graffiti Soles, creating custom-designed artwork on shoes.
Year eight school student and aspiring artist, Meg, says: “I came up with this idea of graffiti-ing shoes because I loved art and drawing. I got inspired by all the graffiti art around Melbourne and just thought I'd give it a shot.”
Meg painted her own set of canvas Volleys and filled an order for a friend and has had lots of encouragement from her classmates. Through the business website, or the school playground, customers specify the type of designs they would like to have drawn onto their canvas shoes, such as their name, hobbies, cartoon characters or favourite singer.
At this stage, all the Graffiti Soles shoes are customised, however the girls are working on plans to scale the business.
“I am thinking of having four main designs and having them printed so if people really like them and if the business gets out of hand we can just give them to them really quickly,” says Meg.
Meg invited Tara, her friend since kindergarten, to be her business manager, a role that they will develop as the business grows, Meg says.
Although the business is in its infancy, with only a handful of orders in the pipelines, the pair are working on their marketing plan and have high aspirations.
“My mum came up with this idea of a tweet campaign to target one celebrity and get everyone talking about it. I was thinking Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. I would love to be noticed on the street for my art, and have celebrities wear them,” says Meg.
She and Tara have both received encouragement from their families, especially their mothers, who have strong backgrounds in business.
Getting a taste for business
Club Kidpreneur Foundation mentor, Eamon Eastwood, says parents' attitudes have a huge impact on whether a child's entrepreneurial flair is nurtured. To ensure that kids are given a taste of business regardless of their background, Club Kidpreneur has created a program to develop kids' entrepreneurial skills. One program runs for eight weeks through schools, and the other is a three-day holiday camp with the fourth day spent at a local market so kids can sell their wares.
“Some of the kids are really into the doing and the designing and some are into the financials. Partnerships are formed with two friends – and that's ultimately how it works in any business, you work to your strengths,” says Eastwood, who runs his own business, Taste Ireland, importing Irish produce. He was invited to be a mentor for Club Kidpreneur by founder Creel Price.
Eastwood says it's exciting seeing how much kids can learn about business during the course.
“At the end of the day: can you teach entrepreneurialism? You can definitely foster it and encourage it. For them to come up with a little idea and show they can create it, market it, and actually sell it in a market – that builds their confidence that they can actually make something of value.”
One of the components of the program is experimentation, Eastman says. “We say: 'Try it at that price, or that colour, and if that doesn't work, that's OK'. It's about learning to fail in that environment.”
Another important part of the program is encouraging kids to see the role of business within the community.
“We encourage the kids to create something for community, for value for the marketplace, and some of the kids donate a percentage of profit to a cause.”
"You can start it with 50 cents"
Donating to charity was an important part of the lemonade business created by Connor Mawer, 11, who was only nine when he started Squishies Lemonade as part of the Club Kidpreneur program during after-school care.
“I've sold lemonade with about 20 per cent of it went to the Smith Family,” Connor says.
Connor (pictured above with brother Byron) created his business from his dad's lemonade recipe, and first sold it at a market, where his mentors helped him realise that he could increase the price of his lemonade when it was hot and it didn't slow down his sales. He was later invited by his mentor Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin to sell lemonade at the launch of technology incubator Blue Chilli in May.
Connor, who now only sells his lemonade intermittently and has started a local paper round, says he's learnt some valuable lessons in business.
“I learnt not to make the price too high otherwise people won't buy it, and not too low that you won't make a profit. I learnt that you don't need millions of dollars to start a business. You can start it with 50 cents.”
Five tips to encourage your child's entrepreneurialism
1. Educate your child about the value of money by giving them chores around the home for pocket money.
2. Encourage your child's creative ideas regardless of whether or not they have a business focus.
3. Help your child understand the role of business in the community – explain that there are people behind local business.
4. Instil a sense of confidence in your child – let them know it doesn't matter if their ideas fail, it is persistence that brings success.
5. If your child has an idea for a business, be encouraging and link them in with networks, ideas or education programs that will support them.
Source: Eamon Eastwood